On the same night that an identical Earth appears in the night sky, a seventeen-year-old girl named Rhoda drinks too much and slams into another car, killing a college professor’s wife and child, and leaving him in a coma. Four years later, she is released from prison, and John is now living alone, depressed and bitter, and no longer working. When the young woman visits him, intending to confess and apologize, she loses her nerve and instead tells him that she’s there to clean his house. Over the course of the next several months, the two begin an unlikely relationship, both beginning to heal from the past. In the meantime, the residents of Earth become fascinated with Earth 2. The young woman enters an essay contest, hoping to win a coveted ticket to visit the new planet.
This movie got off to a slow start for me, but after twenty minutes or so, I found myself engrossed. The style is minimalist, with not a lot of music or dialogue, but the acting is superb. It was amazing to see William Mapother, who will always be Creepy Ethan from Lost in my head, play a sympathetic character. He’s so good at playing evil and weird, but he has a stunning range, and his performance in this film is amazing. Brit Marling, who plays the young woman, is a new actor to me, and she has some of the most expressive eyes I’ve ever seen. Both of these actors gave brilliantly nuanced performances as characters that had a minimum of dialogue.
What I find the most interesting is that the screenwriter chose to write such a character-driven drama against the backdrop of this amazing scientific discovery. Typically, science fiction movies are all about the science, the setting, and the action – aliens, space ships, futuristic scenery and costumes. In this film, the characters drive the movie, and their story just happens to coincide with what is happening in the sky.
My favorite scene, by far, is when John takes Rhoda to the theater and performs for her on his saw. I had no idea that a saw could produce such other-worldy sounds, and the juxtaposition of his music with Rhoda’s thoughts of traveling to Earth 2 was simply beautiful.
I really want to talk about the ending, though. I knew what Rhoda was going to do when she went to visit John at the end, that she would offer him her ticket so that he could go see if the other wife and child still lived on Earth 2. But the very ending….when Rhoda 2 shows up….I was baffled. I really don’t know what it means. Any ideas?